PORT MORESBY – Following the detection of the first coronavirus case in Papua New Guinea late last week, in an emergency meeting yesterday the national executive council decided on the implementation of a series of tough measures to stop or slow the spread of the disease through the country.
“This is not just a health issue but a national security issue,” prime minister James Marape said in a public statement, adding that it will have profound effects on the economy, law and order and education.
Mr Marape said the positive detection was of a 45 year old man from Europe who has been placed in isolation. He will be returned to Australia, through which he transited, when he has recovered.
Authorities are now tracing the man’s movements through PNG to contain any impact of the bio-security breach.
They are also taking stock of all people who entered PNG after Saturday 7 March to ensure they are identifed, tested and the status of their health affirmed.
All people who have entered and those who have come into contact with them have been asked to report to a telephone hotline.
Mr Marape also declared a 30-day state of emergency which the police commissioner will control assisted by a military call-out placed to ensure law and order and efficient responses to emergency measures.
He also said that, further to the shutting down of incoming international flights, PNG will cease all domestic flights for 14 days starting tomorrow.
“We direct that as of Tuesday 24 March, there will be no public transportation of people and no movement from one province to another for a 14 day period,” he said.
Only approved cargo and medical, police and military personnel will be moving.
Provincial control will be under the command of provincial governors, provincial administrators, provincial police commanders and provincial health authorities.
Mr Marape directed all heads of departments and private companies to embrace safe workplace practices and to ask non-essential staff to stay at home for the next 14 days.
The first term school and university holidays have been advanced to today and the next 14 days have been designated as school holidays.
Police and military presence in border areas have been stepped up to prevent crossings by foot or canoe.
Banks and financial institutions and superannuation funds have been mobilised to work with government agencies on the development of an economic package.
Mr Marape also said the only official point of release for public statements will be himself as prime minister through the controller of state-owned enterprises.
The controller will issue details on how citizens need to respond during this time and of how breaches will be punished.
“We have now mapped the country into zones to isolate this virus from spreading,” Mr Marape said.
The four zones are: Mid-PNG (Morobe, Madang and all the highlands provinces); Central Papua (National Capital District, Central and Gulf); Niugini Islands, Sepik and Western Border; and Bougainville.
The SOE commander will delicate the PPCs to police the zones to ensure lawful abiding to this control measures.
We will get through this phase, we ask from corporation from all citizens, residents and businesses houses.
God bless PNG.